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Last Updated: Friday, 21 October 2005, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Adult education costs to rise
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Funding for young learners' courses gets priority
Adult learners are going to have to pay more for their courses as ministers announce a shake-up in their funding of adult education.

The amount they contribute to further education courses is to rise to 37.5% from 2007, up from 27%.

Ministers are switching funds to 16 to 19-year-olds and to adults who do not have basic skills in English and maths.

They say the government can no longer contribute three quarters of the cost of adult learners' courses.

Training for adults learning basic literacy and numeracy skills will be free.

The government says it also wants to ensure more young people finish their apprenticeships.


Its plans are set out in a document by the Learning and Skills Council, called Priorities for Success - Funding for Learning and Skills.

The government says funding for 16 to 19-year-olds' provision will increase by 11% in 2007-8, and will allow an extra 46,000 students to study in schools and colleges compared with 2005-6.

Critics say fees will rise dramatically and some courses will be cut.

Further and Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said: "The huge successes we have seen, (in the further education sector) while welcome, have contributed to the rising costs and we have developed this strategy with a view to rebalancing spending on our priority areas."

Forward planning

The government says student numbers rose by more than 800,000 since 1997.

"If we are to maintain the improvements in our key areas... public funding alone will not suffice," Mr Rammell said.

"Employers and individuals benefit and it is only right that they contribute more to meet costs."

The government says it has consulted widely on the new strategy and learners will understand the new approach.

Mark Haysom, Chief Executive of the Learning and Skills Council, said the strategy was being set out early to give colleges and schools time to plan ahead.

"We will drive forward our priorities we have set out to radically transform the fortunes of the further education sector."

The government says the funding increases will mean the equivalent in the cost of an hour's tuition from 1.42 to 1.94 - 52p.

Older learners' fears

But the Association of Colleges says it has misgivings about the rise.

A spokesperson said it would not just be recreational courses which were hit by the new funding arrangements. He said examples of courses hit included accountancy, information technology and evening A-level courses.

Chief Executive Dr John Brennan had previously warned that 200,000 adult education places had been cut this academic year, and more would follow next year.

Adrian Thomas of Help the Aged is concerned about possible cuts to courses for older learners.

"While it is understandable that any government would wish to invest in educating and skilling its future workforce, this should not be at the expense of its older workforce," he said.

"Far too many able people are thrown on the scrapheap in their 50s and 60s for the sake of investment in adult learning.

"Not only does adult education help people extend their working lives, it expands horizons and guards against a loss of independence into retirement."

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